Thursday, January 3, 2008

Urge Wisconsin Politicians to Reject Assembly Bill 600

I apologize for the political nature of this post, but our sport depends on the availability of quality mountain bike trails.

If you live in Wisconsin, please review 2007 Assembly Bill 600. Read this bill carefully.
If it becomes law, it will adversely impact the composition of the Governor's State Trails Council which represents all types of trail recreation in Wisconsin. I urge you to contact your state legislators and ask them to reject 2007 Assembly Bill 600 as introduced November 29, 2007 by Representatives Mursau, Montgomery, Kleefisch, Lemahieu and Townsend, cosponsored by Senators Breske, Grothman and Lazich.

The State Trails Council, created by statute in 1989, is a nine-member council appointed by the governor to four-year terms. Members must be knowledgeable in various recreational uses of trails. The STC provides advice and consultation to the Department of Natural Resources on the planning, acquisition, development and management of trails in Wisconsin. The council represents trail users in Wisconsin, which includes more than half of the state's residents. The council is also responsible for providing counsel in administering Federal Recreational Trails Program funds. This program provides millions of dollars to be distributed to trails throughout the state. The STC serves as Wisconsin's state recreational trail advisory committee for the program and is necessary for Wisconsin to participate.

Currently the law does not provide specific designations for the Council members. The law designates nine members but grants the Council privilege to represent specific user groups. The user groups or activities currently represented are:
  1. The Ice Age Trail
  2. Off Highway Vehicles
  3. Equestrians
  4. The Department of Transportation
  5. Trail Users with Disabilities
  6. Nordic Skiing
  7. Water Trails
  8. Snowmobiles
  9. Bicycles
AB 600 seeks to increase the number of representatives from nine to eleven and specifies that four of them will represent the following motorized user groups:
  1. All-Terrain Vehicle users
  2. Snowmobile Users
  3. Users of motor vehicles with 4 wheels that are manufactured principally for off-highway use
  4. Users of motorcycles that are manufactured principally for off-highway use

The bill does not designate any representation of non-motorized user groups. In the bill only four user groups are protected and all of them are motorized.

The Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) assesses the supply, demand and participation rates of outdoor recreation in Wisconsin. According to the latest SCORP report, motorized outdoor recreation participants represent a much smaller percentage of users than non-motorized users.

Consider the percent of participants for the following activities cited in the SCORP report:

  1. Walk for Pleasure: 85.8%
  2. Bicycling: 49.3%
  3. Day Hiking: 35.0%
  4. Off-road driving with an ATV: 23.4%
  5. Canoeing: 20.5%
  6. Mountain biking (off-road): 20.4%
  7. Inline Skating: 20.0%
  8. Trail Running: 18.6%
  9. Snowmobiling: 18.3%
  10. Mountain biking (single track): 18.0%
  11. Off-road 4-wheel driving (SUV): 17.7%
  12. Skiing, Cross Country: 11.4%
  13. Horseback Riding: 9.8%
  14. Backpacking: 6.9%
  15. Off-road motorcycling: 5.9%
Using these statistics, it is clear that if a separate representative is designated for off-road motorcycling — the smallest percentage of users, all other activities that have a higher percentage of participants should be guaranteed representation. In fact, logic would dictate that if a separate representative is designated for off-road motorcycling, then the number of council members dedicated to represent pleasure walkers should be 14, and proportionately 8 for bicyclists, 6 for day hikers, 4 for ATV riders, 3 for people who canoe, 3 for mountain biking, etc. I exaggerate, but I hope you see my point.

Expanding the Governor’s State Trails Council to 11 members with four of those members designated to represent motorized recreation would give non-motorized users disproportionate, unfair and unjustified power on the council.

While I do believe that it is fair for motorized users to have representation on the Council, I do not feel the bill addresses the issue appropriately in its current form. I also believe that at a time when the societal ills of obesity, fuel consumption and pollution are adversely affecting our health and the well-being of our habitat, the state should not be giving more credence to motorized recreation. On the contrary, I believe the state should be discouraging such.

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